By Richard Cowley, Date: 20/9/13
With many false dawns over the last few years Solomon Islands Rugby League will finally enter the international rugby league arena.
The momentum for the establishment of rugby league in the Solomon Islands kicked off in February 2013 when the Papua New Guinea high commissioner visited Solomon Islands to throw his support behind the establishment of rugby league in the Islands.
In June this year the newly formed Solomon Islands Rugby League got underway with a rugby league 9’s competition which was then followed by 13 a-side 8 team (two categories) regular season competition.
The International Rugby League Federation continued on with the development theme when in August they organised for two officials from Australia to visit the Solomon Islands and conduct coaching and refereeing courses. The courses went over 4 days with 20 locals taking part.
Solomon Islands Rugby League will play their first international against Vanuatu on Saturday October the 5th in Mackay, Queensland Australia.
Rugby League Planet caught up with William Paikea the Chairman of the Solomon Islands Rugby League and ask him a few questions regarding Solomon Islands newest sport and the make-up of the team to take on Vanuatu in October.
RLP – How is Rugby League developing in the Solomon Islands?
Paikea – Rugby League in Solomon Islands is gaining momentum in this soccer loving nation. To add, is up and against the might of rugby union that has been played in the country for more than fifty (50) years to date. The SIRL Executive is organizing a full competition that is currently up and running with eight (8) teams in two categories; the open and under 21s development teams respectively. The RLIF through Tas has been very supportive in this new initiative by providing technical assistance and some logistics. The SIRL has been recognized as the National federation in the region and is been given observer status in the Asia Pacific RL Confederation. This is a very positive step and we are looking forward to working closely with RLIF and APRLC to develop the new code in the country. The biggest challenge SIRL is facing is securing a major sponsor in the local business houses however, the interest for the new code is mounting with the players, teams and the public at large.
RLP – What will be the make-up of the team to play Vanuatu local v heritage players?
Paikea – The Solomon Islands team to play against Vanuatu is made up of home based players who were selected from the local competition and Australian based players who are Solomon islanders living and playing in Australia. However, talks are still under way between the SIRL commercial partner, Dane Campbell and SIRL Executive of how best we can send in home based players to join the team in Oz. The Large determining factor here is finance and the very last minute arrangement in terms of travelling visas. A final understanding should be delivered soon pertaining the matter. Nevertheless, this is a great opportunity for home based players to expose their talents and skills to the Australian market
RLP – What are the goals for Rugby League in the Solomon Islands for the future?
Paikea -This is just about providing the opportunity to young talented Solomon islanders who can excel in the new code and make a meaning life. The SIRL envision to have rugby league a national sport in the next 3-5 years so that young people can enjoy the greatest game of all. In addition, to participate in regional and international competitions as a mark of Solomon islands in the rugby league community.
RLP – Is there any other information you would like to let our readers know?
Paikea – Rugby league in the Solomon Islands has a big future because there is a good mixed and blend of players from Polynesians, Micronesian, Melanesia and others with great skills and talents. However, rugby league here as a new code greatly needs a lot of technical, financial and in kind of support to set off the ground.
Rugby League Planet would like to congratulate William Paikea and all those involved in the Solomon Islands Rugby League for flying the flag for rugby league in what could be argued as the newest nation to the rugby league fold. If anyone would like to assist William Paikea and his team in anyway please contact RLP and we will pass on your details.
For those who want and to go and see the newest Rugby League nations battle it out in Mackay tickets can be purchased here